Introducing the idea of a new sibling to my then-toddler was a heartbreaking exercise, at least in the beginning. I felt guilty about changing my son’s “baby” status, about changing his routine, and about the possibility of taking any part of myself away from my firstborn to make room for another human being. My toddler, surprisingly, made it all pretty easy for me. I was surprised by all the ways my toddler bonded with their sibling before they were even born, and hadn't expected to experience any of those moments. Like, at all. Believe me, my toddler was not one of those “easy-going” kids to begin with, so his “can’t wait to meet the baby” thing really was a shock.
Some of the ways my toddler bonded with his unborn sibling were facilitated by me, while other things kind of came naturally and as a direct result of his own excitement. I guess you never know how these things are going to go (hello, parenthood) and, in the end, it all depends on the kid. Don't worry, it wasn't all kittens and rainbows and bliss, especially once my toddler's brother actually came home. While my toddler continued to welcome his baby brother and was lovely and gentle, he decided to give my husband and I hell. Bedtime, food, and naps? Yeah, those all kind of went out the window for a pretty significant amount of time.
Still, I was happy he didn't take his resentment out on his newborn brother, and just focused his toddler rage on the grownups who, let's be real, weren't sleeping anyway. In the worst of times, I just tried to focus on the good things and the happy memories, including the following:
When We Read Baby Books From The '70s Together
I'm still not sure why I didn't go out and research any more recent books on the subject of a new sibling entering the family. However, when a friend of mine gave me her stash from when she was a kid, I figured we were all set in the reading department.
The book that became our household favorite featured a red-faced blonde boy in a bowl cut and a striped turtleneck, who always made somewhat ominous faces and gestures at his newborn baby brother. My son loved the story and didn't seem to notice the creepy, "I think I'll murder my brother and my parents in their sleep" blonde character, and when we read it he easily inserted himself and his future brother into the pictures. He would talk about all the things he and his future sibling would do together, like the kids in the pictures were doing: go to the park unsupervised, play in a living room with exposed electrical outlets, share a creepy looking teddy bear, and eat foods that look like choking hazards for young children. You know, fun, sibling stuff like that.
When My Toddler Sang Them Songs From His Favorite Netflix Shows
The soundtrack of my pregnancy includes a few of the songs from my older son's favorite shows on repeat: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, Super Why, Little Einstein, and Peppa Pig. There was never a moment when I didn't have one of these jingles ringing in my ears. After all, they were the sounds I woke up to when my son crawled into our bed to watch his iPad at 6 a.m. every morning, My toddler thought that, obviously, his brother would want to hear these song, too, so he sang them to my belly loudly and often.
When He Pretended His New Baby Doll Was His Future Sibling
Someone, somewhere, in one of the many online mom groups I belong to, advised that I get my son a baby doll so that he could practice his nurturing skills on his future sibling.
The weird thing, though? His favorite thing to do with the doll, besides push it around in a stroller, was put it in his belly and give birth to it. I don't know where he figured out how "birth" kind of works, or what it is, but this was a thing. If giving birth to one's own brother is a form of bonding, then my son did this in spades.
When He Played Games With The Baby In My Belly
There's a whole bunch of little tricks you can play on the baby in your belly to make them want to say "please leave me the hell alone," and one such trick is to shine a flashlight onto it's face until it kicks you. My son and I loved this trick, especially at night when I knew the baby would be more active anyway (and when I wouldn't have to bother with things like shades to make it darker). He liked the idea that he was playing a game with his sibling, or like he was communicating with him in some kind of Baby Morse Code of his own invention.
When He Looked At Old Photo Albums Of Himself As A Baby
My toddler was obsessed with the photo albums I obsessively lost sleep over trying to make in order to preserve our memories together (because if you don't have photo albums, did life actually happen?). As my belly grew bigger, and my due date grew closer, I took advantage of my toddler's preference for "reading" our photo albums over bedtime stories.
My older son loved hearing about how the new baby would be following in his footsteps, doing all the things that he once did, like crying when he came out of my tummy, being wrapped up in blanket in a tight swaddle, or being fed from my breast (which he found fascinating).
When He Gave Up His Pacifiers "For The New Baby"
A couple of weeks before my second son was born, I made my firstborn aware that he would be giving up his pacifiers very soon. I had floated the idea of gifting the pacifiers to the new baby and, luckily, my son really liked it. So when the last pacifier was spirited away by a squirrel (confession: my son had tossed outside of the stroller, and it was never to be found again) my son concluded that the squirrel had taken it and put it aside to give it to our soon-to-arrive new baby. Let's hear it for kid logic!